Council able to control swingers clubs in Colchester

Swingers clubs in Colchester face the threat of the council’s axe as officials say they can now control such events – as long as there are people ‘partaking’.

Colchester Borough Council officer Jon Ruder responded to questions from Colchester councillors at a licensing meeting on July 20, where proposed changes to the local authority’s policy on sex establishments were being discussed.

Mr Ruder confirmed that swingers clubs in Colchester now count as licensable venues and can be controlled by local councils.

Councillor Roger Buston (Con, Prettygate) raised concerns the council had previously encountered “problems” with a swingers club in London Road, but the licensing department had been unable to intervene, angering residents.

He asked if the changes to the council’s policy would allow it to take into account previous issues.

He said: “Members who have been here for a few years will remember the problems we had a few years ago relating to a premises that opened in London Road that involved a swingers club and licensing was not able to be involved in that, much to the annoyance of members of the public.”

He later said: “Clearly we want to be able to avoid that problem in the future, whereby members of the public think the council is completely useless and doesn’t actually control anything that it should be controlling.”

Mr Ruder said the Essex joint licensing forum, of which he is chair, had recently discussed sexual entertainment venues.

He said: “There is an agreement cross-county that they are all licensable and as such moving forward we would consider them in relation to the voyeurism issue, of partaking or watching.

“That’s the important bit of that particular case, is about the partaking and the voyeurism of it, so we would look at that again if it came up again.”

Cllr Buston said he thought this would address comments made by members of the public regarding the former London Road swingers club.

The changes proposed are to the council’s policy regarding sex establishments, which includes sex shops, sexual entertainment venues and sex cinemas, according to a council report.

According to Mr Ruder, they are mainly to reflect a trend in sexual entertainment venues and services moving online, as well as other minor changes to wording.

Full council will now have to approve the updated document, now the committee has given its seal of approval after last night’s vote.

According to the committee, there is now only one sexual entertainment venue in the borough.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter